June 23, 2006
Liz published this at 8:47 am
Readers One and Many
Most people think of writing as an individual activity. Many folks say, I write only for me! That could be so, but even then what a writer writes comes from experience, observation, and interaction with other people or of the writer as a person. Writing is intimately individual but also dynamically social. Even when people don’t read what I write, they have inspired it in some way or another.
Writing for an audience can seem overwhelming. It’s easy to get caught in a loop — thinking of each person who might drop by as someone you specifically have to write to. I find what works best for me is to define the group and to define my promise to them as a writer.
Defining My Promise to My Audience
I’ve been writing for a public audience for almost three decades and I’ve found there are some mistakes that almost everyone makes, and some techniques that can keep a writer on track and engaging for at least 80% of your readers. Let’s say this little chart is a spectrum of beginners to experts on any topic. It tells where I look to find my readership. I go for the 80% in the middle and leave off the 20% that makes up the two ends.
That spectrum might make you think I’m going for a “sitcom post,” but far from it. The quality of a post depends on how I define my promise and what I assume about that 80% of my readers. Here are the definitions and assumptions I write with.
My readers and I are equally smart.
I have a different role in our relationship.
My readers are bloggers, business folks, college students, municipal workers. realtors, educators, and others.
My readers have plenty of their own work to do.
My role is not to change how they work, but to offer ideas and ways to make their lives easier.
I can do that because I have more time than they do — If they did what I do they couldn’t do what they do.
That is our tacit agreement.
If I quit fullfilling my promise, they’ll quit coming around and find someone else who will keep the promise that I broke.
It seems to me that there’s nothing sitcom about that approach, except perhaps the wish to reach as many folks as I can. I made the promise in hopes that folks make use of what I have to offer. Naturally I also hope that they will understand that I also offer services to help them improve their branding, their businesses, and their blogging presence. Either way, the promise is a pinkie swear — without strings. It has to be or it wouldn’t be authentic, and authentic is key to any promise.
How do you approach writing for a large audience? Do you know what sorts of people read your blog?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Want an hour of Liz’s personal consulting time? See the About ME “Liz” Strauss page.